Only scientist researching how pot can help veterans’ PTSD gets axed after GOP pressure

By Scott Kaufman
Friday, July 11, 2014 12:03 EDT
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In what may have been a politically motivated firing, the University of Arizona has let go of a prominent researcher who studied the effects of marijuana on military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Dr. Sue Sisley was slated to begin studying the palliative effects of marijuana on veterans with PTSD this summer with the approval of the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Public Health Service, and the University of Arizona’s own Institutional Review Board. Last week, however, university officials informed her that her contract with the institution would not be renewed.

According to Dr. Sisley, the study became the victim of legislative infighting after two Arizona Republican senators, Andy Biggs and Kimberly Yee, became aware of it. The university, however, insisted that it was under no political pressure to fire the soon-to-be former assistant director of the Arizona Telemedicine Program.

As of September 26, 2014, she was informed, it would also terminate her position as a clinical assistant professor in the Psychiatry Department, as well as another position she held at the Phoenix campus’s medical school.

“It’d be different if it was just one of the three positions,” Dr. Sisley told The Arizona Republic. “But this is an across-the-board termination, so it suggests that this is a direct attack on the fact that I was at the forefront of very controversial research.”

Her study would have been the first randomized control trial investigating the potential benefits of marijuana consumption among veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“What they’ve done is harm the veterans by delaying this very crucial research by possibly a year or more when [veterans] really needed this research to be done,” she told The Arizona Republic. “We were right on the cusp of being able to implement this research and the UofA just cut it off at the knees and hurt the veteran community in Arizona more than they’ll ever realize.”

According to Dr. Sisley, her termination is part of a concerted effort to punish her “for trying to provide the public with knowledge about the barriers to marijuana research.”

The university issued a statement saying that it would not comment on personnel decisions, but its Director of Human Resources, Helena Rodrigues, did tell The Arizona Republic that “any individual employee should not have an expectation of continued employment past the end of an employment-contract period.”

Watch a report on her firing from 12 News below.

Scott Kaufman
Scott Kaufman
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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